Plentiful, Enabling, Transparent and Equitable – four wishes for philanthropy

There’s lots of good that philanthropy does in our world, but there’s also so much more that is possible.    For starters, I would love to see philanthropy become more plentiful, enabling, transparent and equitable, and here’s why:

  • Plentiful: What more could be achieved if all of us gave a little extra so that through our collective efforts there is significantly more funding available to our communities?  For individuals, giving more might involve consciously considering “how much is enough” and whether we can contribute a greater proportion of our income or assets.  For trusts and foundations, this could involve increasing annual distributions, using capital “for good” through things like social loans and investments in social businesses, or considering a spend down approach.
  • Enabling: Do we give in a way which effectively enables those we fund to get on with the job of making positive change in the world?  Respectful, reciprocal relationships, multi-year funding,  untagged or lightly tagged funding and processes that are fair,  reasonable and with a light funding burden and  are enabling ways to fund.
  • Transparent:  Unlike the USA, which requires almost all foundations to annually distribute at least 5% of their investment assets, there are few laws governing trust and foundation giving in Aotearoa NZ.  It is important therefore to clearly show how our organisations serve the public good, especially if a foundation is tax exempt.    I would love to see something similar to the Foundation Center’s excellent “Glass Pockets” initiative – which includes transparency guidelines, self-assessments and the ability to query foundation transparency – implemented here.  Let me know if you think so too!
  • Equitable: Giving is good, but if the people benefiting from our giving are already living comfortably, we risk entrenching privilege.   Here in Aotearoa NZ, we also need to ask ourselves whether our funding is equitably reaching Māori, Pasifika and other groups.   “Philanthropy at its best […responds] to the needs of those with the least wealth and opportunity” says one definition.   But we can probably go one better than simply responding to needs.  We can, through giving, consciously contribute to a fairer, more equitable world.

What would your four wishes for philanthropy be?


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  1. Kia ora Kate

    Those are four great principles and I would strongly support more transparency along the lines you suggest.

    Andrew Scott

  2. Lots to ponder there Kate. Thanks for challenging us! We’ve been working hard on the enabling principle and will be thinking more about transparency as well.

    1. Thanks Louise! And good on Rata Foundation for all your thoughtful and useful work. You guys are a great example of providing more plentiful funding – just when it was needed most.

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